8 Best Ear Protection for Loud Machinery in 2023: Reviews & Top Picks
If you go to a shooting range, they won’t let you fire a single shot without ear protection. The same is true for construction sites and industries that involve the use of loud hardware/machinery. Without the right safety devices to shield the noise, all those bangs, beeps, and squeaks will eventually damage your ears. Thankfully, premium-quality hearing protection doesn’t cost a fortune. But how do you find the right earmuffs/plugs?
There are quite a few options on the table, but even established brands like 3M or ACT might not always have the perfect fit for your ears, labor type, and budget. That’s exactly why we put this list together! After carefully testing the finest equipment the market has to offer, our team picked eight top-quality devices for you to check out. In the reviews, we’ll talk about the pros/cons, NRR, best uses, user experience, and more. Take your pick!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Professional Safety Ear Muffs by Decibel Defense||
|Best Value||Pro For Sho 34dB Shooting Ear Protection||
|Premium Choice||3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector||
|ACT FIRE Ear Protection Hearing Protection||
|3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Ear Muffs, Noise Protection||
The 8 Best Ear Protection Devices for Loud Machinery
1. Professional Safety Ear Muffs by Decibel Defense—Best Overall
Target ranges, industrial facilities, and power tools all make noises. So, if you operate heavy machinery or like to hone your shooting skills after a hard day at work, the Professional Safety Ear Muffs by Decibel Defense will keep your ears protected 24/7. But what makes them so special? First, the DD muffs boast an exceptional NRR (noise reduction rating) of 37 dB. That means they can handle even the loudest guns and machines.
On top of that, they are designed with comfort in mind. You can wear them for long hours, and they won’t make you sweat or put pressure on the ears. Add a rough-tough design that can take a beating and fast, helpful customer support, and you’ll see why Decibel Defense is the best overall ear protection for loud machinery. A quick note: you’ll probably have to stretch the muffs a bit for them to fit.
2. Pro For Sho 34dB Shooting Ear Protection—Best Value
By definition, ear safety equipment doesn’t weigh much. However, if you’re forced to wear them for 8–12 hours, every single ounce counts. And that’s what makes the Pro For Sho 34dB Shooting Ear Protection muffs stand out. They weigh only 0.45 pounds—you won’t even feel them after a while! This also means mobility and ease of transportation. The headband deserves our attention as well. It’s highly flexible and very easy to adjust to your liking.
The NRR rating is more than decent: 34 dB. And to win over the competition, Pro For Sho sells these muffs at a very affordable price, which makes them the best ear protection for loud machinery for the money. This gear is mostly built for construction workers, though, and might not be ideal for gun fans. But that’s compensated by swift delivery across all 50 states.
3. 3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector—Premium Choice
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 kind of device that can not only block loud noises but also play music, the 3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector will be a great pick. While the NRR is not that high (24 dB), you’ll be impressed by its real-world performance. As for the sound quality, it’s crisp enough for calls, streaming music, and listening to the radio: the muffs support Bluetooth and can pair with your gadgets.
The cushions, in turn, are nice and comfy. And you’ll be able to switch the device on and off with the push of a single button even if you have work gloves on. That’s not it for the pros yet! With WorkTunes, you’ll get a powerful, rechargeable battery that lasts for 30 hours on a single charge. Sadly, the muffs do make the ears sweat when it’s hot outside. But that can be avoided by taking short breaks.
4. ACT FIRE Ear Protection Hearing Protection
The first thing that grabs the attention here is, of course, the design. Built after headphones and safety equipment used by the military, ACT FIRE Ear Protection Hearing Protection is perfect for gun practice, lawn mowing, drilling, and other activities where noise dampening is required. The muffs feature paint imported from Japan. It’s durable, doesn’t scratch or peel off, and adds a premium touch.
But the one thing that makes ACT FIRE stand out is the stereo sound. You’ll always know where the noises are coming from while still enjoying top-quality ear protection. On the downside, the muffs tend to make static noise. This usually happens at above-average volumes. Quality control can also be an issue: some buyers report getting the wrong color and a “beaten up” package.
5. 3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Ear Muffs, Noise Protection
Here, we have another device by 3M, but this time around, it comes packed with safety glasses that feature a clear lens, blue frame, and anti-fog protection. If you work with drills, saws, and grinders and need protection both for the eyes and the ears, this set will be a great purchase. More good news: the foam gasket can be removed, and the 3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Ear Muffs won’t make your head sweat.
However, while the Peltor is built with user experience in mind, it won’t be a good fit if you have larger-than-average ears. Another minor con: the headband is crafted from low-quality materials and might break/deform under pressure. Still, those extra glasses and the overall performance (NRR 31 dB) make this 3M product worth your while.
6. Walker’s Razor Slim Ultra Low Profile Hearing Protection
With the Walker ear muffs, you get to choose between 21 different colors. And no matter which one you pick, they’ll come with slim cups that ensure a secure fit. This is a US-made product, by the way (unlike most units on the list), and includes a flag patch in the package. Unfortunately, the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired. You will, of course, be able to listen to music, podcasts, and radio.
But the sound output won’t be very impressive. Furthermore, while the Walker’s Razor Slim Ultra Low Profile Hearing Protection equipment is active, stereo is not a part of the deal. Instead of directional audio, it’s only capable of mono. As a result, it will be almost impossible to understand which direction the sounds are coming from.
7. SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Earplugs
Not a big fan of earmuffs? Then what about earplugs? The ones by SureFire are cheap, lightweight, and will fit in the smallest pockets. The NRR is decent, too, but the noise-dampening capabilities are rather modest. We do want to praise the stems, though. Soft and triple-flanged, they are very easy to adjust. Still, you probably won’t be able to fit them perfectly on the first try.
The plugs tend to come off all the time until you get used to them. On the bright side, the SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus Filtered Earplugs are very durable and allow enjoying a conversation in a loud club, facility, or at a construction site. That said, we don’t recommend wearing them for longer than an hour or two. Otherwise, your ears might start to hurt.
8. PROTEAR AM FM Hearing Protector with Bluetooth Technology
These are the most expensive safety earmuffs on the list: they cost twice as much as most rivaling products. So, how does the manufacturer compensate for the steep price? Well, the PROTEAR AM FM Hearing Protector with Bluetooth Technology is all about ease of use and techy features. Hands-free calling, music streaming, and a built-in microphone are all a part of the deal. On top of that, the muffs have four buttons and an LCD for quick navigation.
You can switch between radio stations and create playlists, along with monitoring the battery charge and checking the time. The battery is rechargeable, too. Now, the PROTEAR muffs are a bit heavier than what you might be used to, but the PU leather headband will keep you comfortable. Sadly, deliveries aren’t always on time: you might have to wait for an extra day or two.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Ear Protection for Loud Machinery
Hearing Protection: Is It Really Necessary?
If you’re working in a loud environment, the answer is yes, you’ll definitely need it. According to the CDC, any noise that goes above the 70 dB mark can damage your ears. You will have to be exposed to it for a long time, of course. But, if the noise is louder than 80–85 dB, permanent damage to the ears might occur after 2–3 hours of exposure. And a sound level of 100 dB can lead to complete hearing loss in less than 30 minutes.
To put things into perspective, washing machines and dishwashers have a noise level of 70 dB. Leaf blowers and lawnmowers are rated at 80–85 dB, while drills easily reach 95 dB. Power tools usually generate 90 dB. So, again, if you’re involved in construction or work at a facility that operates loud machinery, ear protection is a must. The decibel level of a gunshot is 130–160 dB, by the way; that’s why earmuffs are mandatory at shooting ranges.
Earplugs, Buds, and Muffs: What’s the Difference?
There are hundreds of different hearing protection devices available on the market. However, if we break everything down into major sections, we’ll see that there are only four types of safety equipment:
Finding the Perfect Ear Protection Equipment: A Detailed Guide
The Biggest Pros of Using Hearing Protection
The Biggest Cons of Using Hearing Protection
If you want the best ear protection on the market, go with Decibel Defense. These muffs boast 37 dB NRR, put zero pressure on the ears, and are backed by friendly support. The Pro For Sho set, in turn, carries excellent value, only takes a second to readjust, and has a lightweight design. And if you’re in the market for premium safety earmuffs, 3M WorkTunes will be a great pick.
As we learned from the reviews, this equipment features a powerful battery, advanced Bluetooth features, and excellent audio quality.
Featured Image Credit: Irina Fischer, Shutterstock